Shirlie Alice Montgomery • June 9, 1918 – Nov 5, 2012

Shirlie always had her camera handy.
Shirlie Alice Montgomery was born on Chapman Street in San Jose on June 9, 1918. She was an only child. To her friends and neighbors she was a treasure trove of history. Shirlie remembered it all. She remembered the Great Depression as a child, the Second World War as a young woman, and eventually the transformation of the Santa Clara Valley from a moderately sized agricultural town to the hustle and bustle of modern Silicon Valley. The majority of her memories were supported by the thousands of photographs in her collection.
Young Shirlie Montgomery

Shirlie a few years ago from an article in the Rose Garden Resident.

She was the grandniece of San Jose’s forefather T.S. Montgomery. Shirlie lived a colorful life but professionally she photographed it with a 4X5 Speed Graphic in B&W. She was a celebrated photographer that shot Hollywood stars, U.S. Presidents and pro wrestlers. Although Shirlie did work for the S. F. Examiner and the San Jose Mercury her works remain some of the best representations of pro wrestling from the 40’s thru the 60’s. When asked about her penchant for shooting professional wrestlers she would answer “I always liked the big boys”. Such stories Shirlie had! She passed away quietly on November 5, 2012. She will never be forgotten. God rest her soul.

Obituary written by Shirlie's good friend and neighbor Joe Holt

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Shirlie Montgomery Photography Exhibit -- Founder's Day 2003


In celebration of Founders Day in November 2003, History San Jose, through the support of then Vice Mayor Pat Dando, mounted an exhibit in then Mayor Ron Gonzales’ offices at San Jose City Hall featuring the photographs of Shirlie Montgomery. The invitation said about Shirlie: Montgomery, one of photography’s pioneering women, captured on film a slice of San José life from the mid 1940's to the mid 1970's. The exhibit ran for a year, through November 2004, and was made possible through a donation to History San Jose by Leonard McKay and Ms. Montgomery.

The invitation to the Opening Afternoon Reception
Shirlie Montgomery -- The Photographer
Leonard MacKay -- Long-time Friend of Shirlie
Shirlie and me (Bob Bortfeld) at the Exhibit
Vice-Mayor Pat Dando did the introductions
Leonard gave a speech too -- He never needed much encouragement to talk about friends.
Kirk McClelland is another close friend of Shirlie's
Shirlie loved the scouts ... she had featured some of them in a few photo shoots with wrestlers!
Leonard McKay, a HSJ Director, Shirlie and Pat Dando
Same crowd posing for more photos
Shirlie looking over the Exhibit Catalog with some of her fans
All images from our private collection.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Augustus J. Walsh Drowning on Santa Cruz Beach 1938

On the afternoon of Sunday, July 25th 1938, tragedy struck on Santa Cruz Beach, at the mouth of the San Lorenzo River. A young Augustus J. Walsh got caught by a large breaker and drowned. Walsh was just 22 years old and even though he was a weak swimmer, he had ventured out to offer help to another swimmer. The story made many newspapers (see coverage below from the Santa Cruz Sentinel). Shirlie just happened to be there and caught a couple of photos that made it into the San Jose Mercury Herald. This was before Shirlie had made a name for herself as a  journalistic photographer, so she did not get a byline ... but you have to start somewhere.

These are graphic photos, but Shirlie never shied away from any photo opportunity. To make this more significant, Shirlie was friends with Kenny Gleason, one of the lifeguards. As a side note ... just a day later another dramatic rescue occured at the same place on the beach!


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